Civil Societies reject“blanket amnesty”
By Sworo Charles Elisha
The Civil Society Organizations in the country are appealing to the leadership of South Sudan to get away from what they describe as“blanket amnesty,” as a means of expressing mercy and restoring justice for those who have taken up arms against the government.
Presenting her paper during the last day of the conference at the Catholic University of South Sudan on mercy and forgiveness as some options for resolving violence, the Secretary General of South Sudan Democratic Engagement, Monitoring and Observation Programme, Lona Merekaje said before giving an amnesty it is important to know what happened that deserves mercy as a process of restoring trust.
“Many at times we have seen amnesty processes that do not encompass compensation and the that question goes that in my mind is what do we do with these people who have been pardoned in the name of mercy and they are here in the community which has been affected so much by actions of such people?” she said.
She said there should be honest and transparent conversations on what have happened to the offended so that true justice and mercy could be realized in the process.
“I would like to see mercy from the perspective where there is acknowledgement so that there is a proper anchor point for that mercy. If mercy upon Lona is without Lona realizing the mistakes she has done, I am likely to abuse that, it is important for me to realize the mistakes I have done,” she said.
She said for example if the perpetrators of some human rights abuses could be child soldiers who might commit crimes unknowingly just because they have been told to commit crimes that could be haunting in their mind every time.
“Sometimes the perpetrators in this process are child soldiers. They got themselves there not by choice and they were instructed to do things that are haunting them until today; so how do we go about hunting such people not unless the process is transparent, not unless the conservation is open,” Merekaje said.
Meanwhile the Executive Director of Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance (FODAG) Jame David Koloksaid much as mercy could be ideal for resolving the conflict, there should be a holistic approach for resolving the conflict because the citizens should be involved to define what mercy is and what justice is and what accountability is.
He said amnesty given by an individual on political perspectives undermines the definition of justice on the side of the victim.
“Therefore as much as amnesty is ideal, we are calling for the government to exercise some conditional amnesty which opens up the party receiving amnesty to be able to testify before the Truth, Reconciliation, and Healing Commission to provide information which may be used in future,” he said.
“We are not opposing any initiative that is meant to bring peace but we are saying that we just don’t go for blanket amnesty because then we will be unfair to the victims,” he reiterated.
Blanket amnesty means for example if an armed group lays down their guns, then they would not face justice but just integrate into the community without any accountability for all the pain and accountability that they may have inflicted into some members of the community.
The Church is encouraging mercy is a solution to restore peace and stability in the country as biblically everyone is a sinner before God.